The Great Freeze refers to the winter of 1894-1895, especially in Florida where the brutally cold weather destroyed much of the nation's citrus crop.
There were actually twin freezes in Florida during this momentous season, the first in December 1894 and the second in February 1895. The first did not actually kill a lot of groves, but did cause them to produce new shoots. So, when the second, harder freeze came a few months later, the effects were even more devastating. All varieties of fruit (oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, etc.) blackened on the trees, and bark split from top to bottom. These effects were felt as far south as the Manatee River, below Tampa.
Up to 1895, the cheap abundance of semi-tropical citrus groves extended into northern Florida and were producing as much as 6 million boxes of fruit per year. After the Great Freeze, however, production plummeted to just 100,000 boxes and did not break the 1 million mark again until 1901. As a result, land values also dropped in the citrus growing areas from $1,000 per acre to as little as $10 per acre. Many compared the economic impact of the Great Freeze on Florida to the effects of the Great Fire on the city of Chicago.
In the wake of the Great Freeze, many planters simply abandoned their Florida groves in search of frost-free locations in places as far away as Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica. Others relocated to California, utilizing a seedless variety of grapefruit discovered by C.M. Marsh near Lakeland, Florida. Growers who were not able to abandon the region were forced to try their hands at growing other crops, which had the positive result of diversifying Florida's agriculture. For instance, Palatka became particularly well-known for its potato crop in the years following the Great Freeze; and Sanford was closely identified with celery.
Deriving a reliable global temperature from the instrument data is not easy because the instruments are not evenly distributed across the planet, the hardware and observing locations have changed over the years, and there has been extensive land use change (such as urbanization) around some of the sites. The calculation needs to filter out the changes that have occurred over time that are not climate related (e.g. urban heat islands), then interpolate across regions where instrument data has historically been sparse (e.g. in the southern hemisphere and at sea), before an average can be taken.
Pictured left: A schematic showing the regions where natural disasters are predicted to occur due to climate change. Source: UNEP/GRID-Arendal
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average (e.g., more or fewer extreme weather events). Climate change may be limited to a specific region or may occur across the whole Earth.
The term sometimes is used to refer specifically to climate change caused by human activity, as opposed to changes in climate that may have resulted as part of Earth's natural processes. In this latter sense, used especially in the context of environmental policy, the term climate change today is synonymous with anthropogenicglobal warming. Within scientific journals, however, global warming refers to surface temperature increases, while climate change includes global warming and everything else that increasing greenhouse gas amounts will affect.
Climate changes in response to changes in the global energy balance. On the broadest scale, the rate at which energy is received from the sun and the rate at which it is lost to space determine the equilibrium temperature and climate of Earth. This energy is then distributed around the globe by winds, ocean currents, and other mechanisms to affect the climates of different regions.
Pictured left: Global images of Earth from Galileo: In each frame, the continent of Antarctica is visible at the bottom of the globe. South America may be seen in the first frame (top left), the great Pacific Ocean in the second (bottom left), India at the top and Australia to the right in the third (top right), and Africa in the fourth (bottom right).
Atmospheric stratification describes the structure of the atmosphere, dividing it into distinct layers, each with specific characteristics such as temperature or composition. The atmosphere has a mass of about 5×1018 kg, three quarters of which is within about 11 km (6.8 mi; 36,000 ft) of the surface. The atmosphere becomes thinner and thinner with increasing altitude, with no definite boundary between the atmosphere and outer space. An altitude of 120 km (75 mi) is where atmospheric effects become noticeable during atmospheric reentry of spacecraft. The Kármán line, at 100 km (62 mi), also is often regarded as the boundary between atmosphere and outer space.
Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the burning of fossil fuels has contributed to the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from 280ppm to 390ppm, despite the uptake of a large portion of the emissions through various natural "sinks" involved in the carbon cycle. Anthropogenic (human-sourced) carbon dioxide (CO2 ) emissions come from combustion of carbonaceous fuels, principally wood, coal, oil, and natural gas.
Each gases' contribution to the greenhouse effect is affected by the characteristics of the gas, its abundance, and any indirect effects it may cause. For example, on a molecule-for-molecule basis the direct radiative effects of methane is about a 72 times stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over a 20 year time frame, but it is present in much smaller concentrations so that its total direct radiative effect is smaller. On the other hand, in addition to its direct radiative impact methane has a large indirect radiative effect because it contributes to ozone formation.
All of these chemicals are usually highly reactive and oxidizing. Photochemical smog is therefore considered to be a problem of modern industrialization. It is present in all modern cities, but it is more common in cities with sunny, warm, dry climates and a large number of motor vehicles. Because it travels with the wind, it can affect sparsely populated areas as well.
The greenhouse effect is a process by which thermal radiation from a planetary surface is absorbed by atmospheric greenhouse gases, and is re-radiated in all directions. Since part of this re-radiation is back towards the surface, energy is transferred to the surface and the lower atmosphere. As a result, the average surface temperature is higher than it would be if direct heating by solar radiation were the only warming mechanism.
Solar radiation at the high frequencies of visible light passes through the atmosphere to warm the planetary surface, which then emits this energy at the lower frequencies of infrared thermal radiation. Infrared radiation is absorbed by greenhouse gases, which in turn re-radiate much of the energy to the surface and lower atmosphere. The mechanism is named after the effect of solar radiation passing through glass and warming a greenhouse, but the way it retains heat is fundamentally different as a greenhouse works by reducing airflow, isolating the warm air inside the structure so that heat is not lost by convection.
Strengthening of the greenhouse effect through human activities is known as the enhanced (or anthropogenic) greenhouse effect. This increase in radiative forcing from human activity is attributable mainly to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. CO2 is produced by fossil fuel burning and other activities such as cement production and tropical deforestation. The current observed amount of CO2 exceeds the geological record maxima (~300 ppm) from ice core data. The effect of combustion-produced carbon dioxide on the global climate, a special case of the greenhouse effect first described in 1896 by Svante Arrhenius, has also been called the Callendar effect.
A substance in the air that can cause harm to humans and the environment is known as an air pollutant. Pollutants can be in the form of solid particles, liquid droplets, or gases. In addition, they may be natural or man-made. Pollutants can be classified as primary or secondary. Usually, primary pollutants are directly emitted from a process, such as ash from a volcanic eruption, the carbon monoxide gas from a motor vehicle exhaust or sulfur dioxide released from factories. Secondary pollutants are not emitted directly. Rather, they form in the air when primary pollutants react or interact. An important example of a secondary pollutant is ground level ozone — one of the many secondary pollutants that make up photochemical smog. Some pollutants may be both primary and secondary: that is, they are both emitted directly and formed from other primary pollutants.
Pictured left: Image of the largest Antarctic ozone hole ever recorded (September 2006)
Ozone depletion describes two distinct but related phenomena observed since the late 1970s: a steady decline of about 4% per decade in the total volume of ozone in Earth's stratosphere (the ozone layer), and a much larger springtime decrease in stratospheric ozone over Earth's polar regions. The latter phenomenon is referred to as the ozone hole. In addition to these well-known stratospheric phenomena, there are also springtime polar tropospheric ozone depletion events.
The details of polar ozone hole formation differ from that of mid-latitude thinning, but the most important process in both is catalytic destruction of ozone by atomic halogens. The main source of these halogen atoms in the stratosphere is photodissociation of man-made halocarbon refrigerants (CFCs, freons, halons). These compounds are transported into the stratosphere after being emitted at the surface. Both types of ozone depletion were observed to increase as emissions of halo-carbons increased.
CFCs and other contributory substances are referred to as ozone-depleting substances. Since the ozone layer prevents most harmful UVB wavelengths (280–315 nm) of ultraviolet light (UV light) from passing through the Earth's atmosphere, observed and projected decreases in ozone have generated worldwide concern leading to adoption of the Montreal Protocol that bans the production of CFCs, halons, and other ozone-depleting chemicals such as carbon tetrachloride and trichloroethane. It is suspected that a variety of biological consequences such as increases in skin cancer, cataracts, damage to plants, and reduction of plankton populations in the ocean's photic zone may result from the increased UV exposure due to ozone depletion.
The Protocol allows for several "flexible mechanisms", such as emissions trading, the clean development mechanism (CDM) and joint implementation to allow Annex I countries to meet their GHG emission limitations by purchasing GHG emission reductions credits from elsewhere, through financial exchanges, projects that reduce emissions in non-Annex I countries, from other Annex I countries, or from annex I countries with excess allowances. Each Annex I country is required to submit an annual report of inventories of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions from sources and removals from sinks under UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. These countries nominate a person (called a "designated national authority") to create and manage its greenhouse gas inventory.
Carbon taxes offer a potentially cost-effective means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. From an economic perspective, carbon taxes are a type of Pigovian tax. They help to address the problem of emitters of greenhouse gases not facing the full (social) costs of their actions. Carbon taxes are a regressive tax, in that they disproportionately affect low-income groups. The regressive nature of carbon taxes can be addressed by using tax revenues to favour low-income groups.
A number of countries have implemented carbon taxes or energy taxes that are related to carbon content. Most environmentally related taxes with implications for greenhouse gas emissions in OECD countries are levied on energy products and motor vehicles, rather than on CO
2 emissions directly.
A carbon offset is a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for or to offset an emission made elsewhere.
Carbon offsets are measured in metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e) and may represent six primary categories of greenhouse gases. The categories include: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), hydroflourocarbons (HFCs), and sulfur hexaflouride (SF6). One carbon offset represents the reduction of one metric ton of carbon dioxide or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases.
There are two markets for carbon offsets. In the larger, compliance market, companies, governments, or other entities buy carbon offsets in order to comply with caps on the total amount of carbon dioxide they are allowed to emit. This market exists in order to achieve compliance with obligations of Annex 1 Parties under the Kyoto Protocol, and of liable entities under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. In 2006, about $5.5 billion of carbon offsets were purchased in the compliance market, representing about 1.6 billion metric tons of CO2e reductions.
In the much smaller, voluntary market, individuals, companies, or governments purchase carbon offsets to mitigate their own greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, electricity use, and other sources. For example, an individual might purchase carbon offsets to compensate for the greenhouse gas emissions caused by personal air travel. Many companies offer carbon offsets as an up-sell during the sales process so that customers can mitigate the emissions related with their product or service purchase (such as offsetting emissions related to a vacation flight, car rental, hotel stay, consumer good, etc.). In 2008, about $705 million of carbon offsets were purchased in the voluntary market, representing about 123.4 million metric tons of CO2e reductions. See also green economics.
The phenomenon of global dimming is widely known, and is not necessarily a geoengineering technique. It occurs in normal conditions, due to aerosols caused by pollution, or caused naturally as a result of volcanoes and major forest fires. However, its deliberate manipulation is a tool of the geoengineer. The majority of recent global dimming has been in the troposphere, except that resulting from volcanos, which affect mainly the stratosphere. By intentionally changing the Earth's albedo, or reflectivity, scientists propose that we could reflect more heat back out into space, or intercept sunlight before it reaches the Earth through a literal shade built in space. A 0.5% albedo increase would roughly halve the effect of CO2 doubling.